'Fear is ev­ery­where': A quiet para­noia haunts post-We­in­stein Hol­ly­wood

Sunday Times (Sri Lanka) - - INTERNATIONAL -

CK? How do you, or should you, sep­a­rate art from the artist when Ri­d­ley Scott cuts Kevin Spacey’s scenes from his new film about the oil ty­coon J Paul Getty and reshoots them with Christo­pher Plum­mer? How do you cam­paign for awards when We­in­stein’s fin­ger­prints are ev­ery­where and ques­tions on the red car­pet will not be who you’re wear­ing but what you knew and when? And how do you blow the whis­tle on an abuser when de­spite the cur­rent cathar­sis you still fear for your ca­reer and rep­u­ta­tion?

Anx­i­ety per­vades Hol­ly­wood, said Sasha Stone, founder of the web­site Awards Daily. “There’s a lot of ner­vous­ness. Peo­ple don’t know where this is go­ing. Ev­ery­body is asking who will be next. Publi­cists are paid to keep sto­ries down and con­trol the mes­sage but now they’re in a sit­u­a­tion where the truth comes out faster than they can con­trol the mes­sage. It’s like gaso­line, as soon as a story breaks, whoosh.”

Im­mo­lated, too, is Hol­ly­wood’s sense of it­self as a pro­gres­sive bea­con. We­in­stein re­port­edly hired pri­vate in­ves­ti­ga­tors, in­clud­ing ex-Mos­sad agents, to spy on and in­tim­i­date his ac­cusers. Po­lice in the US and UK are in­ves­ti­gat­ing al­le­ga­tions he raped and as­saulted mul­ti­ple women.

Off screen, the Los Angeles Po­lice Depart­ment launched an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Corey Feld­man’s claims about a pe­dophile ring while LA pros­e­cu­tors have for med a spe­cial Hol­ly­wood sex­ual as­sault task force. Los Angeles still has palm trees and balmy Novem­ber sun­shine, but to many in Hol­ly­wood it seemed an un­fa­mil­iar land where money, power and big-hit­ting lawyers now count for lit­tle.

Some me­dia out­lets and web­sites have run sto­ries based on so­cial me­dia post­ings with neg­li­gi­ble ef­forts to ver­ify them. “Con­victed by Twit­ter. I’ve never seen any­thing like it,” said the lawyer for one ac­cused di­rec­tor. The ac­tors Char­lie Sheen and Ed West­wick is­sued ve­he­ment de­nials in re­sponse to sep­a­rate al­le­ga­tions.

“Ev­ery­one is a sus­pect”, said the tagline on bill­boards for Mur­der on the Ori­ent Ex­press, in­ad­ver­tently cap­tur­ing a febrile at­mos­phere in which ac­cusers, ac­cused and wit­nesses all feel pres­sure.

“It’s a very strange world we’ve en­tered,” said Michèle Burke, who has won two Os­cars for makeup. She wel­comed the out­pour­ing of sto­ries as an over­due re­sponse to the cast­ing couch cul­ture but ex­pressed un­ease at the ve­loc­ity. “It’s re­ally great that peo­ple are speak­ing up. But it’s like me­dieval times, drag­ging peo­ple out and throw­ing rot­ten fruit. There has to be some due process.”

Anne He­len Petersen, au­thor, said: “I think there are many peo­ple who are very scared of what may or may not come out about them.”

From afar it may seem Hol­ly­wood rings with de­nun­ci­a­tions. In re­al­ity, there is a hush. “It would be the end of my ca­reer,” a ju­nior ex­ec­u­tive told the Guardian after de­clin­ing to go on the record about a for­mer boss’s ha­rass­ment. “I’ve dis­cussed this with col­leagues. We’re all amazed he hasn’t been outed. But no one wants to be the first to go pub­lic.” Half a dozen oth­ers with al­le­ga­tions against other in­dus­try fig­ures echoed the sen­ti­ment.

Ac­tors such as Rose McGowan, who came for­ward to pub­licly ac­cuse We­in­stein, are a small, brave mi­nor­ity, said Sam Asi, a mem­ber of the Hol­ly­wood For­eign Press As­so­ci­a­tion, which runs the Golden Globes. “It’s fear – fear is ev­ery­where.” It was fear of dam­ag­ing your ca­reer – “if you want to sur­vive in Hol­ly­wood you don’t want to be known as a trou­ble­maker” – and fear of of­fend­ing the in­ter­net out­rage ma­chine, said Asi. “Fa­mous peo­ple have to mea­sure ev­ery word. You can’t pre­dict how the pub­lic or so­cial me­dia may re­act. Si­lence is the best pro­tec­tion.”

There is fear even of ac­knowl­edg­ing the fear. Sev­eral in­dus­try fig­ures com­pared the cli­mate to a witch­hunt, an­other called it Robe­spierre-style ter­ror, but they de­clined to be named lest they be seen as in­suf­fi­ciently sym­pa­thetic to vic­tims.

It will make for a fraught awards sea­son, said Stone, the blog­ger. “Publi­cists are keep­ing their peo­ple qui­eter than usual, there’s not as much ac­cess.”

Hol­ly­wood’s new­est art form: ly­ing low and say­ing lit­tle in the age of stand­ing up and speak­ing out. (Cour­tesy The Guardian, UK)

Catch a fall­ing star … Kevin Spacey is memo­ri­alised on the Hol­ly­wood Walk of Fame (Reuters)

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